Have you ever noticed that when the laughter dies and the conversation simmers, people grab their phones to cure that awkward silence?
You see, phones are no longer handy devices. They are your hands. They are your eyes and ears in the world around you. But they are also the killers of happiness.
The Dopamine Rush
Every time you pick up your phone, your brain releases dopamine. This is a hormone that is notoriously known to make you feel good.
Back in the good old days of our ancestors, dopamine helped with their survival. By releasing the hormone while eating, mating and expressing emotions, our ancestors survived for longer for the simple reason that it felt good to do those activities.
As a result, humans today strive for this pleasurable feeling by finding whatever activities release this powerful hormone. This is where phones come into the picture.
When you perform tasks on your phone, like texting an old friend, going through childhood photos, or playing puzzle games, your brain releases dopamine.
As you put your phone down, you crave to pick it up again for the same reason you picked it up in the first place – it felt good.
In essence, you are creating a dopamine cycle that makes you think you are happy when in reality you are slowly making yourself miserable. This is because with every high there is a low.
Unhappiness in Dopamine
Phones in themselves are not the problem. The same could be said of dopamine – there is nothing wrong with feeling happy when performing tasks and being rewarded for them.
The problem is how frequent it happens and how easy it is to achieve that dopamine rush. Much like anything, too much of a good thing can have negative consequences.
There is no shame in using your phone when using looking for directions or catching up on work, but if you have a hard time not using your phone during an awkward silence, you know there is a problem.
Allow yourself to be bored. When you are on the tube, look at your surroundings. When the conversation dies down, let your mind wander.
To balance this pleasurable feeling that dopamine gives you, it is sometimes better to be idle and do nothing.
If you can show restraint in not picking up your phone, you are making good strides. You are helping yourself in delayed gratification, you are detoxing your mind for your overall happiness. And you detaching your third arm. Slowly but surely.